“What’s the difference between an attorney and a bucket of pond scum? Answer: The Bucket!”
“What’s the difference between a dead snake in the middle of the road and a dead attorney in the middle of the road? Answer: The brake skid marks before the dead snake.”
Do you respect your attorney? Strange way to start a new post, but it is a valid question that I have discovered over my 20+ years of working in the law. As I advise my clients and my students on a regular basis, your attorney is supposed to help make your life better and should resolve the questions and problems that you are currently facing. Shocking right? However, it is the truth.
Now, I know that with the exception of Jesus, no human being in the history of our Earth is perfect and at some point of your life, you will be disappointed in other human beings. After all, we live in a fallen world and we are fallen people. However, I have always hoped that when I interacted with others, especially other professionals in service industries, I would receive the utmost respect and care that the service provider could give. Naïve, right?
Several years ago at a family gathering, my wife’s grandfather sat down with me and asked me a rather poignant question, which was: “Jeremy, do you know what’s wrong with you?” After picking up my jaw from the awkward situation and reflecting upon the fact that I didn’t seem to remember asking for a self-analysis, he answered, “Your problem is that you are an intelligent, hard-working, and common-sense oriented kind of person, BUT, you expect everyone else in the world to be the same way; which is just going to lead you to disappointment.” He wasn’t wrong and, to be perfectly honest, it is terribly sad to realize that. Shouldn’t we expect the best out of ourselves and out of others? If you were presented with a task to help someone who is a close family member, or if you were doing the same task for a non-relative client/customer, would you offer the same service to both? Isn’t it disappointing that there is a gap in service there?
With all of those questions to ponder, why is it that there is such disdain for attorneys? That is a rhetorical question, as there is sadly not enough paper, ink, and time in the world for everyone to provide specific examples of how their attorneys have let them down. I have personally met several members of my profession who literally make my skin crawl each time I meet them and I do everything I can to be the opposite of them. But even as hard as I work for my clients, why is the attorney the first person to be thrown under the bus when something goes wrong? Why do I meet with people on a regular basis who clearly don’t mind getting answers to their problems, but are less than thrilled to pay for answers and solutions to their legal issues?
If you take your car to a mechanic, do you expect the mechanic to repair your car for free? If you have water leaking all over your kitchen floor or have a septic problem backing up in your house, do you call a plumber to ask for free advice? When you have a sore tooth with a cavity, do you sit down with your dentist and ask how to remove the cavity on your own? When you have chest pains, labor pains, or other health issues, do you negotiate the fees with your surgeon/doctor while on the operating table? So why is it that when people contact their attorney, they ask for free legal advice and dispute the attorney fees?
Sadly, I believe the most obvious answer is my original question: “Do you respect your attorney?” As stated above, if your attorney works hard and shows you the respect that they hopefully show everyone who enters their office, then your attorney can literally save you and your loved ones years of problems, worries, and financial burdens. Do you value the advice, counsel, and answers that your attorney provides? Ultimately, what is that worth to you?